Since 2009, American television audiences have watched ambitious entrepreneurs take a lonely stage in front of a panel of wealthy would-be investor “sharks” to pitch their business idea in hopes of an investment deal.
Wildly successful pitches have helped launch some small businesses into international sales generators, like Scrub Daddy—maker of smiley-faced kitchen sponges.
The hit ABC show Shark Tank offers these ambitious small-business owners a chance at their dreams of success. Each episode features several pitches, chosen from among thousands of applicants. But only a few conclude with a shark taking the bite—and a significant portion of deals actually fall through after the show airs.
So is the whole process worth it? We talked to several Shark Tank alum, and the resounding answer is yes.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur with your own big idea, we’ve got the lowdown on what it takes to get on Shark Tank and how to make your pitch a success. The good news? Even if you don’t make it on the show—or you do but don’t get a deal—the experience can boost your brand and your sales revenue.
There’s no magic bullet for clinching a successful Shark Tank effort. But our research and conversations with folks who’ve experienced the show uncovered a few steps that could improve your chances.
Easier said than done, right? Well, if you’re considering applying for Shark Tank, you already have a brilliant idea you think customers would want. The trick is convincing the show’s producers that it’s brilliant too.
Fortunately, the show has featured pitches from a wide range of products and services. From odor-reducing sticks for kids’ athletic gloves to an online ice cream gift delivery service, Shark Tank chooses entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and ideas to have their shot at making a deal.
To improve your odds with producers, make sure you have the credibility and business history to back up any claims you make. And show your receipts. As much as possible, secure patents, set up a website, shoot photography, collect customer testimonials and insights, conduct market research, and document any sale or presale information that you can—before submitting an application.
Once you submit your application—whether by email or at an in-person open casting—prepare to answer multiple questions from producers about your business plan and product or service.
At some point during the application process, you’ll need to submit a video, usually 10 minutes long, featuring you and your business idea. The video is crucial to the process because it’s the first chance (unless you attend an open casting) that show producers have to see your personality, energy, passion, and style.
You don’t have to produce an Oscar-worthy piece of film. But the video should be engaging and TV-worthy. Be yourself and show your personality. Talk about the “big story” and the reasons why you created your business idea in the first place.
Use your video to say precisely what you want. What do you need that you could only accomplish with investment from the sharks? Would help with branding and marketing launch your business to the next level? What do you expect your company to do with investment dollars? Don’t be afraid to talk about the weak spots in your business—that’s why you’re asking for help!
Also, find the drama. Talk about what going on the show and making a deal with a shark would mean to you, not just your business. Share your entrepreneurial dreams. You don’t need to be overly sentimental, but do make it personal.